by Paul McMahon
From Milan to Manhattan, I always order Carpaccio as my test of an Italian restaurant’s authenticity. Looking at the plate, I knew this restaurant in Todos Santos was doing something right. The beef was sliced across the grain, drizzled with olive oil, topped with freshly grated parmesan and finished with baby watercress. My wife always humors me, trying to steal a bite or two, but this time I had to fight her off to get my share, if not a little bit more. This was the best Carpaccio I’ve ever dreamed of.
We were hoping this would continue to the pasta, but expecting disappointment. We weren’t disappointed. The clams in the Pasta Vongole were cooked perfectly even though they varied significantly in size. That is, in my opinion, a true measure of a devoted cook. Gorgonzola lightly seasoned the cream sauce, which smothered the handmade gnocchi.
When we returned two nights later, the proprietor, Angelo Dal Bon, immediately recognized us, and suggested we take the same table, where we could observe the kitchen. He even asked if we wanted the same wines. We agreed: the Pinot Grigio was dry and accompanied the clams well, and the Chianti satisfied my yearning for full bodied red wine with character.
We refused the menu, asking if he could bring us three dishes to share which were different from our previous dining experience. “Of course!” was his immediate reply. A salad of fresh baby greens lightly dressed with oil and vinegar and accented with capers started this adventure. It was followed by spaghetti cooked perfectly al dente and topped with diced tomatoes and freshly chopped basil. Our culinary experience ended with a small filet of fresh sea bass pan fried in butter, just enough to retain its fresh flavor.
As we were lingering over coffee, Angelo smiled and asked if everything was “todo bien!” Seldom outside of Italy had we enjoyed such a respect for the ingredients. For this quality, we didn’t mind spending the $100 each night, wine and service included.
“We are Italian and we insist on importing olive oil and parmesan. And we are blessed with an abundance of fresh vegetables, fish caught that day, and the other ingredients we need, right here in Todos Santos.” When asked how they happened to choose this location, he explained that his wife, Magda Valpian, lost her restaurant to an earthquake a few years ago and became despondent. Trying to change that situation, he suggested a trip to Baja California Sur. She instantly fell in love with the quaint village of 5,000. This was the magic place Magda chose to live. Within a week, they found this space at the corner of Topete and Juarez, purchased it, and set out to create a place for Magda to thrive.
The side of the building sported a faded painting of three chickens and they chose that as the name: “Tre Galline” for “Three Chickens.” As we watched Magda personally supervise every dish coming out of the kitchen, Angelo smiled. “I think Magda is now a very happy chicken, don’t you?”
If you go:
Todos Santos, a newly designated ‘Puebla Magico’ by the Mexican government, is a 90-minute drive north of Cabo San Lucas in Baja California Sur.
Ristorante Tre Galline
Telephone: 612 145 0274
Paul McMahon, an ITWPA member, is a travel writer based in Portland, Oregon. Prior to this, he was an international businessman traveling to—and eating in—more than 100 countries.
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